New funding to support Geelong Otway older Australians in recovering from isolation

Media Release

A new injection of funding will help improve the mental health and wellbeing of older Australians in the Geelong Otway region.

$121,000 of Commonwealth government funding has been allocated by Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) to Bellarine Community Health to increase social connection and mental health support for older Australians across the Geelong Otway region until the end of 2021.

Set to commence by end of March, the program aims to increase social connection for older people living in the community or in residential aged care facilities and provide mental health nurse services and care coordination support to socially isolated older people who may be at risk of or have a mental illness.

WVPHN CEO Rowena Clift said this funding will help older community members recover from the effects of increased social isolation experienced during the pandemic.

“As physical distancing laws continue to ease and aged care facilities continue to allow greater access for family and friends, WVPHN wants to accelerate the return to what is familiar for our older citizens and help them socially reconnect,” Ms Clift said. “The employment of a mental health nurse at Bellarine Community Health will ensure this care will be able to reach those who need it.

“Our aged care workforce has worked tirelessly to maintain the wellbeing of residents over the past year, so to be able to provide this funding will provide additional support.”

Bellarine Community Health has employed a mental health nurse to deliver the program who will be based within the Greater Geelong area and deliver this support across the Geelong Otway region – both face-to-face (including potential home visits) or via telehealth. The nurse will be responsible for the delivery of mental and physical health assessments, short-term mental health therapy, service navigation and health literacy. Additionally, access to local support services and programs can also be given as needed.

Bellarine Community Health Interim CEO Garry Ellis said: “It is great to have the opportunity to establish this program for older community members who are experiencing social isolation, to support improved mental health and connection to their local community.”

Bellarine Community Health will establish and promote a clear referral pathway which will connect referral enquiries to the program as appropriate.‘Older Australians’ are defined as people over 65 years of age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55 years of age. This initiative will be closely aligned with Wellways’ Social Connections Partnership Grants work which was announced in early November 2020 to help ensure no one in the community feels alone by developing partnerships and services between health services and community groups.